A Journey Back to Life Through Stem Cell Therapy: How NFL Greats Are Finding Relief From Injury, Part 4

Dan Pastorini

Dan Pastorini

Quarterback Dan Pastorini played 13 years in the NFL from 1971 through 1983. Most of that career was spent with the Houston Oilers, a team No. 7 played with for nine seasons. In those nine years, Pastorini only missed five games and he played through some very difficult and painful injuries, which included broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Because of his broken ribs, Pastorini became the first player to ever wear the flak jacket for protection.

Pastorini told me the story about how that came about.

“I was in the hospital with three broken ribs,” Pastorini said. “This guy comes into my room with a friend of his carrying a baseball bat and a brown paper bag. I thought they came to pummel me to death.

“The guy pulls out a plate with some padding out of the bag and places it against his ribs. The other guy swings as hard as he could with the bat and hits him in the ribs three times. The guy didn’t even blink. So I said, ‘I want one of those.’

“So the guy said okay and came back three days later with the prototype. I wore it all week in practice and got comfortable with it. I ended up playing the rest of the season with it and also through the playoffs.”

After his NFL career was over, Pastorini ended up having a shoulder replacement and then had two hip replacements, one in 2015 and the other in 2016.

Since the two hip replacements, Pastorini has received stem cell treatment to aid in the healing process.

“I had injections in both hips and also a general infusion with an IV to help my general system,” Pastorini said. “The injections are sort of like a cortisone shot without the damage. It prevents the pain and it does help the healing process by putting healthy cells into your body and in the joints.”

Since Pastorini has had the stem cell therapy, his lifestyle is much improved.

“My lifestyle is better than normal,” Pastorini said. “People kind of look at me sort of strange, as I walk fast up these stairs at this park I go to. There are about 40 stairs and so far I can get up seven or eight steps walking quickly. When I get to 12, I’ll be satisfied, as that’s plenty for a 67 year-old man to do.”

The bottom line is that Pastorini is very thankful for the help he has received with stem cell therapy.

“We appreciate what Kandace [Stolz] and the folks at Premier Stem Cell Institute do,” Pastorini said. “They are so helpful. All of us who have received help from them really appreciate it. And there are a lot of guys like me who still need help. Hopefully a story like you are doing will help reach some of them.”

That is exactly what is happening. The other night, Stolz told me that a number of former NFL players had read my story and had contacted PSCI regarding getting stem cell therapy.

Lee Roy Jordan

Lee Roy Jordan

Another former NFL player, Lee Roy Jordan, has also received help from PSCI. Jordan played middle linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys for 14 years from 1963 through 1976.

After his career was over, Jordan certainly had his share of ailments. Eventually, Jordan needed to have two knee replacements and two shoulder replacements.

It looked as though the same thing was about to happen to his right hip when he heard about stem cell treatment.

“The hip was bothering me so much that I couldn’t sleep at night,” Jordan said. “So I ended up having stem cell treatment in my right hip and it worked out wonderfully well for me. It was a great experience for me and I am so excited about the stem cell therapy potential for everyone, especially the former NFL players.”

Jordan also talked about how the orthopedic surgeons will need to incorporate using stem cell treatment as part of their practice.

“I think that probably most of the surgeons are going to utilize the stem cell process,” Jordan said. “That would be the best way to help their patients. I think the stem cell process is the next big thing in medicine and I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”

Mike Golic played nine years in the NFL as a defensive tackle from 1985 through 1993. Golic was part of one of the best defensive lines in NFL history, as played on the same line with Reggie White and Jerome Brown of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Like Pastorini and Jordan, the years that he played in the NFL took a toll on Golic. The former Notre Dame star talked about he first heard about how helpful stem cell therapy could be for him.

“In doing the radio and TV show [Mike & Mike on ESPN], we talk about sports in our lives at times,” Golic said. “And part of that was me talking about all the injuries I had in my career at times.

“Well after that, I remember Don Horn got a hold of me and told me about how stem cell therapy can help with my shoulders and my knees, which is where I had some surgery. He talked to me about Premier Stem Cell Institute and he ended up hooking me up with the people there.

“I met Kandace [Stolz] there and she explained the process to me. She also said that they were doing some trials and tests for hips, knees and shoulders to show the results to the NFLPA and folks like that.

“So I had them do a treatment on a knee that a doctor had told me that in five to eight years would probably need to be replaced. I also had them do treatment on my shoulder, as I had gone through seven operations on my left shoulder and three on my right, plus a couple on my knee.

Mike Golic

Mike Golic

“Now before the stem cell treatment, I had been going to orthopedic doc probably every three months or so and getting cortisone shots in my knee and in my shoulder to try and mask the pain. So after that, I felt better and would work out for awhile until the pain returned about three months later and the same process would go on.

“So I went to Colorado to get some stem cell therapy on my knee and my shoulder about three years ago, and I have not needed a cortisone shot since then. It’s definitely done well for me. I’ve also just had a second treatment on my knee, plus I was having some neck issues from playing ball, so they gave me treatment in that area as well.

“I have completely bought-in with what they do at PSCI. The bottom line is that you don’t put anything foreign into body, as it’s all your stuff. To  me, there is little to no risk getting this type of treatment done. They are unbelievably talented there with the easy process of going in for treatment in the morning and coming out just a few hours later.”

Golic is also excited about what stem cell treatment is doing for people with cognitive issues. A prime example is how stem cell therapy helped Bart Starr after he had two strokes and a heart attack.

“Let’s be honest,” Golic said. “If this can help on the cognitive side of things, it would truly be fantastic. That’s way more important than helping out my knee or helping my shoulder. I mean it’s great that it does.

“But if this can lead to breakthroughs in helping anyone who has had strokes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s  or whatever, quite honestly, that’s the real win. The fact that it can all of us is great, but helping out in that area is more important than anything.”

I certainly concur, Mike.

It’s truly amazing about how this great process for helping former NFL players through stem cell therapy first got implemented.

It simply came about when Don Horn listened intently to Jerry Kramer, when Kramer was speaking to some of his former teammates about what he had found out regarding stem cell treatment during a reunion four years ago.

Horn heeded Kramer’s words and investigated stem cell therapy on his own when he returned to his home in Colorado. That all led to Horn having a partnership with Premier Stem Cell Institute to help former NFL players.

Once Kandace Stolz became involved in the process, the outreach to former NFL players became more pronounced and effective, with Horn being the primary liaison to the players.

But it was Kramer who went to places like the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, MIT, Cal and Stanford to learn about the stem cell process, before he had ever talked to Horn or his former teammates about stem cells.

Kramer had to be a believer in how stem cell treatment could help people, before he would speak out about this great medical advancement.

Kramer is definitely a believer now.

Don Horn with Coach Lombardi in Super Bowl II

Stolz told me about a conversation she had with Kramer a couple months back on the phone.

“Jerry is a wonderful resource for stem cell therapy,” Stolz said. “In a conversation that lasted about 45 minutes to an hour, Jerry really impressed me with his knowledge. I wish he could work with me.

“Jerry has gone to places that I have not been able to visit as of yet. Jerry is going into the labs and seeing the extrapolation process. He sees things that I only wish that I could see. He is just an incredible resource to have.”

There is  absolutely no doubt about that.

There is also no doubt that stem cell therapy is also a fantastic resource for former NFL players to have as well.

And thanks to Premier Stem Cell Institute, that resource is becoming a reality to the former NFL greats who receive the stem cell treatment that they truly need.

To read Part 1 of this article, go here.

To read Part 2 of this article, go here.

To read Part 3 of this article, go here.

A Journey Back to Life Through Stem Cell Therapy: How NFL Greats Are Finding Relief From Injury, Part 3

 

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Don Horn and Dan Pastorini

Statistics are an important category in the NFL. Some stats stick out more than others. Like when a quarterback throws for over 5,000 yards in a season or when a running back runs for over 2,000 yards in a given year.

In the real world, there is another statistic that leaps out at you. That’s the fact that there are over 800,000 hip or knee replacements every year in the United States.

There are definitely a number of former NFL players who have had those type of replacements over the years, as one might expect. Players like quarterback Dan Pastorini, who has had both hips replaced, not to mention a shoulder as well.

But thanks to Don Horn being a liaison to the former players, along with his corroboration with Kandace Stolz of Premier Stem Cell Institute, former NFL players like Pastorini now have another option.

That would be stem cell therapy.

Stolz believes that orthopedic surgeons can merge their practice with those in the stem cell treatment field.

“I do believe that we will be able to work amicably with one another in the future,” Stolz said. “I’m trying to pull them in to learn this skill set. And try and train them on how to do stem cell injections.

“You have your conservative care on the left side. Things like physical therapy, chiropractor care and pain management. Then in the middle you have cortisone shots. Cortisone shots are for pain reduction, but what the shots also do is strain the lining of all the cartilage and the tissue.

“And then there is the far right side, which is the invasive mode. The total hips, the total knees and the back fusions. We would like to add stem cell therapy right there in the middle, and negate or replace the cortisone shot since it does strain the tissue. Put stem cell therapy and the level of modality in the middle, so people could exhaust this possibility before they went on to the more invasive procedure.”

Stolz first joined Premier in November of 2013 as director of marketing, vice president and stem cell counselor. By July of 2014, Stolz was named president and that promotion has led the growth and expansion of the stem cell institute.

That growth has led to many more former NFL players receiving help, with Horn being the main connection between the players and the institute.

“In terms of the NFL Alumni, Joe Pisarcik and I met in March,” Stolz said. “We met initially at a Super Bowl party that Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski held. I told Joe how successful we were treating former NFL players.

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Mike Ditka and Kandace Stolz

“I told him about the three studies we had done with the NFL and that we wanted to show him the results. Later, I flew to Philadelphia and I showed Joe all the data we had compiled. We ended up signing an exclusive contract with the NFL Alumni, which provides stem cell treatment to five players per month, if the players are qualified after the vetting process.

“Within the first week of launching that program, 66 former players requested to be part of the program. I’m also actively working with the NFLPA, so they understand what we are doing as well.”

Speaking of the active NFL players, several Denver Broncos were treated before they went on to win Super Bowl 50.

“The treatment gave the players an immunity boost,” Stolz said. “It’s all natural, because it’s from their own cells. It’s a proactive approach.”

Stolz is also reaching out to the NHL and the CFL as well. Stolz is working with former NHL player Kurt Walker to help out the NHL Alumni and an organization that Walker founded called Dignity After Hockey.

“We are excited about the relationships we are building with former NHL players and CFL players, just like we currently have with former NFL players,” Stolz said. “But we are more excited about the outcome it will have for them.”

Besides the stem cell institute in Johnstown, Colorado, Premier also recently opened a new institute in Dallas as well.

Stolz talked about future plans for Premier.

“Our projected site plan is to have 10 facilities nationwide,” Stolz said. “We are working on our third site in St. Louis right now. I do a strong evaluation of the doctor I want and then I build the clinic around the doctor.

“We would also like to open our own lab in Mexico. We would still use the same parameters in terms of FDA regulations. What we are wanting to do there is to extrapolate and expand those cells over a period of time. Other people are doing that, but I want to do it ethically and so the patients actually benefit from it and that it’s not a cash cow.

“That’s not what we are about. We are about the science. Yes, we all have to make living and cash pay is the only option now, but there are clinics in Mexico that are charging $20,000 to $30,000 an injection. That’s just asinine. You don’t need that type of expense. Right now it’s the wild west down there.

“We want to bring a lot more clarity and vision to the ethical outcomes that we have. That’s our goal.”

Since stem cell therapy is only a cash option now, I asked Kandace when will the general public get an opportunity to use this marvelous medical practice by using their health insurance?

“Right now, it’s a fairly expensive price, when you lump in everything our staff does for the patient,” Stolz said. “But if insurance companies take this on, and I do believe that they will, we are probably about three years out from that happening.”

My next question to Kandace was how the stem cell treatment process actually works.

“We take the cells from your iliac crest, where you put your hands on your hip, where your thumb rests on the back side of your hip,” Stolz said. “We draw about 60 cc’s of fluid and then spin them in our Centrifuge to diversify the levels.

“We have three levels. Your platelets, your plasma and your stem cells are right in the middle. The stem cells are held within a buffy coat. There are held in the middle of that, based on our equipment. Then we pool from the center section and that goes right back into the area of injury.”

In Part 1 of this article, I wrote about how stem cell therapy not only helps patients with bone and joint issues, but also with patients with cognitive issues. Which includes patients who have had a stoke.

Stolz commented on how that process would work, when I mentioned a women who had a remarkable recovery after a stroke in a case study which was done at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“In that case, there would be a direct injection into the cranium or into the spinal cord,” Stolz said. “That really helps as it goes into the spinal fluid, which expedites the process within the body.

“Anything dealing with the heart, the cell source that individuals want to use actually comes from your fat, or adipose. When you are doing orthopedic procedures, we use bone marrow. But for that particular lady who have had a stroke, I’m 100 percent certain that she used adipose. It’s just more replicable to the internal pathology.”

IMG_0911

Kandace Stolz (President at Premier), Don Horn, Meghan Baumann (Director at Premier) and Arba Boci (Vice President at Premier)

It’s truly amazing what stem cell therapy can do to enhance the quality of life for individuals. The best part is that through case studies and further research, the level of care keeps getting better and better.

In Part 4 of this article, we will hear from former NFL players like Dan Pastorini, Lee Roy Jordan and Mike Golic, as they comment on how well there are doing physically after being helped by stem cell therapy at Premier Stem Cell Institute.

To read Part 1 of this article, go here.

To read Part 2 of this article, go here.

Green Bay Packers: Joe Callahan is the Preseason Offensive MVP

Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan

The Green Bay Packers are 3-0 so far in the 2016 preseason schedule. The Packers have have beaten the Cleveland Browns 17-11, the Oakland Raiders 20-12 (both at Lambeau Field) and the San Francisco 49ers 21-10 at Levi’sStadium.

Green Bay is undefeated despite the fact that starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers has played just two series this preseason (against the Niners) and backup quarterback Brett Hundley has basically played just a quarter.

The majority of the snaps have gone to undrafted rookie Joe Callahan, who hails from Division III Wesley.

Callahan has been helped by a deep roster that general manager Ted Thompson has assembled for head coach Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff.

Callahan has played against the starters from the other teams, as well as second and third string players. No matter what defense he faces, Callahan seems unflappable.

So far, Callahan has thrown two touchdown passes without a pick for 356 yards in three games. That adds up to a passer rating of 89.1.

Callahan’s passer rating would be even higher, if not for some untimely drops by his receivers. In the recent game against the 49ers, Callahan did a nice impression of Brett Favre, as he rolled left and threw across his body to the right deep downfield, only to see Davante Adams fail to snare a perfect pass for a touchdown.

In that same game, Callahan went deep down the right sideline only to see rookie Trevor Davis just miss a pass off his fingertips that would have been another touchdown.

Time after time, McCarthy put Callahan in pressure situations as the Packers went for it on fourth down several times in the 49er game. More times than not, Callahan completed a fourth down pass to keep the drive alive.

Callahan has a strong arm and has excellent mobility, which fits in well with the offensive system which McCarthy implements. Rodgers and Hundley have the same attributes.

Callahan has escaped pass pressure a number of times this preseason and then completed passes to keep drives alive. No. 6 has also rushed for 28 yards.

The knock on Callahan is his size, as he goes 6’1″, 216 pounds.

As well as Callahan has played this preseason, the odds are slim and none that he will make the final 53-man roster of the Packers heading into the season. That may change, if the Packers determine that Hundley has not recovered sufficiently enough from his ankle sprain to be ready for the start of the regular season on September 11.

For now, it appears that the Packers will waive Callahan on the last cut on September 3, as he figures to get the majority of snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs this upcoming Thursday (September 1).

Other NFL teams will have seen a lot of film on Callahan at that point to make a claim on the talented quarterback, who won Division III’s version of the Heisman Trophy.

If he is not claimed by another team, I would expect Callahan to be part of the Green Bay practice squad. I would not be surprised if the Packers offer Callahan the top salary a practice squad player can make, which is a way to entice a player to stay with the team, even if another team offers him a roster spot.

The Packers did the same thing late in the 2015 season with both guard Matt Rotherham and defensive lineman Christian Ringo.

I would expect that Callahan would want to continue playing in the same offense in which he has excelled in so far, plus get the opportunity to continue learning from both Rodgers and Hundley.

If an injury occurred with either of them, Callahan would be a quick call up.

Bottom line, Callahan is definitely one of the many pleasant surprises that the Packers have seen so far this training camp and preseason from their rookie class.

 

A Journey Back to Life Through Stem Cell Therapy: How NFL Greats Are Finding Relief From Injury, Part 2

Don Horn with Coach Lombardi in Super Bowl II

Don Horn was a rookie quarterback on the 1967 Green Bay Packers, when he was drafted in the first round out of San Diego State. Horn remembers that day well.

“I was sitting in a little bitty room, which actually was in our public relations office there (San Diego State), and I’m just waiting for a phone call, ” Horn said. “I was listening to the draft on the radio, and a number of teams that said they were going to draft me, drafted someone else. It was getting near the end of the round, and the phone rang when Kansas City was going to make their pick. And a lady got on the phone and said ‘Please hold for Coach Lombardi.’

“And by then I’m thinking that someone is jerking my chain. I mean, I hadn’t heard from Green Bay at all. But back in those days, a lot of teams were in the same consortium of using scouts. Anyway, Coach Lombardi came on the phone, and I still didn’t believe it was really him until I heard his voice.

“And he said, ‘Don, this is Coach Lombardi. Did you sign any agreements with any other leagues?’ I said no. Then he went on, ‘We are considering making you our draft pick. Kansas City is picking right now, and I’ll get right back to you.’ Fifteen or 20 minutes later, he called me back and said, ‘You are now a Green Bay Packer. When can you get back here.’ So that’s how it happened.”

Little did Horn know that he would be part of one of the most legendary teams in NFL history that season.

The ’67 Packers went on to win their third consecutive NFL title, which was something that had never been done before in the modern history of the NFL. Plus, that accomplishment has never been duplicated since then.

The saga of that great Green Bay team in 1967 was masterfully chronicled in a fantastic book called Instant Replay, which was co-authored by the late Dick Schaap and right guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers.

The book offers an insightful view of the man who drafted Horn…Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

The Packers finished their wonderful 1967 season by winning Super Bowl II, when the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14.The victory was the second straight Super Bowl win for the Packers, as they had also defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I.

It was during an reunion/autograph session a few years ago with a number of the players on the Super Bowl II team, that Horn first heard about stem cell treatment from Kramer.

“When I first found out about this, I had bad knees, bad ankles and my hip and shoulder were bothering me as well,” Horn said. “So I went back to Wisconsin for a reunion about four years ago. 24 guys showed up for it. And over half of those guys had gone through hip, knee, shoulder replacement surgeries.

“Half of those guys were complaining that their situation was no better now than it was before the surgery. Jerry was sort of in the corner listening to the guys complain about their aches and pains. Then he started talking about stem cell treatment, as he recently had his hip injected in Florida.

“Jerry was raving about how great the process was. I was sort of intrigued and listened closely to what Jerry had to say. So I go back to Colorado and talked to some doctors there. They referred me to a clinic north of Denver, which was then called Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute (now Premier Stem Cell Institute). I went up and met with them and observed a procedure where they actually worked on a guy’s spine. I was really impressed.

“To make a long story short, I had them do work on my knees and I’ve had good results. So I’m thinking to myself, that there were a lot of guys I know who had the same issues I had. So since then, I’m kind of the NFL liaison to help promote stem cell treatment.

“We have probably had close to 175 former NFL players who have had a stem cell procedure done, some of whom are in the Hall of Fame. We also recently signed an exclusive deal with the NFL Alumni to be their official stem cell resource.”

Don Horn with Aaron Rodgers

Speaking of NFL Alumni and also a player who is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Horn told me how stem cell treatment helped out Lance Alworth, the former star wide receiver of the San Diego Chargers, who was nicknamed “Bambi” during his playing days.

“Lance came out a couple of years ago,” Horn said. “He was all set to have a knee replaced, but I told him to come out to PSCI to have his knee looked at. The doctors looked at his knees and he was not considered a candidate for stem cell treatment.

“I mean, his knee was worse than mine. But because of who he was and because he made the trip from San Diego, they gave him an injection of stem cells into his knee. Six weeks later Lance calls me and says, ‘Don, I can’t thank you enough. I can walk again and I can golf. I’m 85 percent better and the pain is virtually gone.’

Horn is the key promoter of stem cell therapy to former NFL players and the list of players wanting treatment keeps growing. But the biggest component of why this outreach is working was when Kandace Stolz joined Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute. Shortly thereafter, the clinic was renamed Premier Stem Cell Institute.

“Kandace has such an affinity and a sincere desire to help people, ” Horn said. “”They really want to help former players get better. Kandace saw my value and that helped to open some doors because of my contacts. She saw that I had an ability to communicate well with people, just like Jerry Kramer.

“Kandace put together a marketing and business plan to push this thing further up the ladder. We have added many more former NFL players, and are branching out to other professional sports like the NHL. Plus, we are working with military veterans who we are helping out as well.”

All of this started for Horn four years ago when he heard Kramer talk about stem cell treatment at the autograph session in Wisconsin. The words from Kramer triggered a response from Horn, which led to his alliance with PCSI and his being the liaison to help other former NFL players.

Speaking of Kramer, Horn recounted a conversation that Kramer had with Stolz a few months ago.

“Jerry was very impressed with Kandace’s knowledge and vice-versa,” Horn said. “Kandace said she never talked with anybody who knew more about stem cells than Jerry Kramer does, who wasn’t a professional physician or something.”

Dan Pastorini and Lee Roy Jordan were two of the former NFL players who Horn reached out to let them know how stem cell treatment could help them. Pastorini had one shoulder replaced and both hips replaced, while Jordan had both shoulders replaced and both knees replaced.

In a future part of this article, Pastorini and Jordan will share how great they feel now thanks to receiving stem cell treatment. Another former NFL player, Mike Golic, who is currently one of the stars of the popular Mike & Mike Show on ESPN, will also comment on how well he is doing thanks to stem cell treatment.

The list of former NFL players seeking stem cell treatment help keeps growing, thanks to the efforts of Horn and Stolz.

Horn wants to help former players like himself, because he knows how much pain he was in before he received treatment.

“Bob, seven or eight years ago, I couldn’t walk,” Horn said. “I couldn’t walk 20 or 30 yards. I just could not walk, it hurt so bad with my knees. It got to the point where I was definitely thinking of having knee replacements.

“Then I heard Jerry speak at the Super Bowl II reunion and my lifestyle has completely changed for the better thanks to the stem cell treatment I received.”

To read Part 1 of this article, go here.

Green Bay Packers: Inside Linebacker is Suddenly a Position of Strength

Blake Martinez II

Linebacker Blake Martinez

You have to hand it to Ted Thompson. Yes, he has his share of critics, but the depth he has assembled for the 2016 Green Bay Packers is the best I have seen since Thompson first started his tenure as general manager in 2005.

Since Thompson brought in Mike McCarthy as head coach in 2006, the Packers have been as successful as any team in the NFL.The Packers have had a 104-55-1 record during that time, which breaks down to a .653 winning percentage.

The Packers have also gone to the playoffs eight times, won five NFC North titles and also won Super Bowl XLV.

This year, it seems like almost every position is deep. Especially if one looks at the wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back positions.

There certainly will be some very difficult cuts when the final 53-man roster is configured on September 3.

One position that was considered a weakness in 2015, has all of a sudden become a strength. That would be the inside linebacker position. At least based on the play of the linebackers vying for spots there in training camp and in preseason games.

In 2015, for the second consecutive year, Clay Matthews moved inside to man one spot. No. 52 did well enough to earn another bid to the Pro Bowl. But the other inside linebacker position was in a state of flux all season.

Sam Barrington suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 and was lost for the year because of the injury. Nate Palmer then stepped in and was third on the team in tackles (80) for the season, but he never flashed any big plays, plus gave up too many.

That is why rookie Jake Ryan got an opportunity to play later in the season, as he started five games. No. 47 also started the two postseason games that the Packers played in. Ryan looked more comfortable with each and every start. Ryan averaged eight tackles a game in his seven overall starts.

One of the biggest issues that the Packers had last season was using one of the inside linebackers as a cover linebacker on passing plays. The job ended up going to Joe Thomas. Thomas was okay in coverage, but not great.

The Packers have certainly changed the landscape at inside linebacker this year with two big changes.

For one, the team decided that Matthews will move back to outside linebacker, which is his more natural position and allows him to better use his speed.

Also, the Packers drafted Blake Martinez of Stanford in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft.

So far, in OTAs, training camp and preseason games, the Packers have to be thrilled with the way Martinez has performed.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how well Martinez has been playing.

Bottom line, Martinez looks to be a three-down linebacker. No. 50 will play in the base, the nickel and the dime.

It appeared that Ryan would be playing next to him at inside linebacker, at least based on the OTAs and the early part of training camp. However, a hamstring injury put Ryan on the shelf for a couple of weeks and he has just this week returned to practice.

That situation opened the door for Barrington, who recently came off the PUP list. Barrington has looked good in his limited playing time so far, similar to how he played in the second half of the 2014 season when he became a starter.

In terms of roster spots, I believe that Martinez, Ryan and Barrington are locks to make the team.

Carl Bradford

Linebacker Carl Bradford

But two other players have looked exceptional in the two preseason games so far.

One player is Thomas, who has bulked up a bit and been very steady. The other player is Carl Bradford, the former fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Bradford is playing like the light has finally been turned on for him in terms of what he should be doing in his role on defense.

Both players are playing well overall so far this preseason and both have flashed big play ability.

Both Thomas (South Carolina State) and Bradford (Arizona State) were tackling machines in college and are playing like that now.

The key for both of them is to continue the momentum they have created in the next two preseason games. If that happens, the Packers will have some difficult decisions to make.

The odds are pretty strong that the Packers will keep either Thomas or Bradford. Especially with Ryan just coming back from his hamstring woes and Barrington coming off an ankle injury which cost him an entire season.

There is also a chance that the Packers might keep both Thomas and Bradford. That would mean keeping five inside linebackers on the roster.

Sound farfetched? Not if the Packers keep 11 linebackers on their roster, which is what I believe they might do.

The four  outside linebackers who would be locks on the team would be Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones. Jayrone Elliott, Lerentee McCray and rookie Kyle Fackrell are fighting for the other two spots, if the team kept six OLBs.

Based on history, the odds are strong that Fackrell will be kept, seeing the team invested a third-round pick on him.

That being the case, it might come down to Elliott and McCray battling for the final spot.

Being able to play well on special teams will probably be the overriding factor for anyone on the bubble fighting for a roster spot at linebacker.

A Journey Back to Life Through Stem Cell Therapy: How NFL Greats Are Finding Relief From Injury, Part 1

Jerry Kramer in 2014

A couple of years ago, in one of my many conversations with former Packers great Jerry Kramer, we were talking about golf. Kramer mentioned that his hip was bothering him and it was difficult playing golf at that time.

I asked Jerry what he was doing to cope with the issue. Kramer said that he took two Aleve tablets each day to ease the pain, but that he might end up having his hip replaced. Another option would be getting stem cell treatment.

That conversation stuck in mind.

Last fall, in another one of our talks, Kramer told me that he just received stem cell treatment on his hip and that the hip felt great. No more Aleve either.

The stem cell treatment for Kramer was the second one he had for the hip. The first one had been done in Florida, while the second one took place in Tijuana, Mexico.

Kramer explained.

“In Florida, I got a couple of injections from Dr. Joseph Purita in Boca Raton,” Kramer said. “Shortly after my treatment, I had a golf tournament and all that twisting, turning and grinding of your joints probably mashed the stem cell effect and it really didn’t help. I think the treatment needs more time and rest to be effective. That’s just my opinion.

“But when I had the injection in October and sat on my ass for about three months afterwards, trying to let everything get established, all went well. Two months later, I was able to stop taking Aleve. And I was taking two Aleve a day, everyday, for about five years. I haven’t taken any since then either.”

It’s important to also understand how the stem cell treatments differ in the United States, as opposed to Mexico.

In the U.S., the FDA only approves stem cell treatments from the person’s very own bone marrow.

In Mexico, you can also have embryonic stem cell treatment or in vitro stem cell treatment.

In embryonic stem cell treatment,  the cells are derived from human embryonic stem cells.

In in vitro stem cell treatment, it involves the human embryos that are discarded every day as medical waste from in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics.

In fact, one of the places Kramer visited while he learned more about stem cell research, Harvard University, a group of researchers are calling for the use of in vitro, as the authors believe they represent an ethically acceptable source of stem cells for research.

Kramer received an in vitro stem cell treatment in Mexico.

About a month after Kramer received his stem cell treatment for his hip, the Green Bay Packers were going to be honoring Brett Favre. The Packers were going to unveil his No. 4 on the stadium facade at legendary Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night, when the Chicago Bears played the Packers.

The big news for this event was that Bart Starr was going to be there.

Starr, who is 82, was debilitated in September 2014 by two strokes and a heart attack. But after Starr received stem cell treatment (also in Mexico), No. 15 made remarkable progress. Starr was once again able to speak and also to walk, after being confined to a wheelchair due to the effects of the stroke.

That procedure and rehabilitation allowed Starr to travel from Alabama to Wisconsin to honor Favre.

When Starr made his appearance at halftime of the game, it was a very emotional setting, especially knowing what Starr had overcome to just to be in Green Bay.

Kramer talked about that emotion.

“The thing about that setting at Lambeau  on Thanksgiving that made my heart go pitty-pat, was when Bart got out of the cart to say hello to Brett,” Kramer said. “And he said, ‘Hey Mister. How are you doing, Brett?’

“That term Mister, was what Coach Lombardi you to say when he wanted to chew our ass. As in, “Mister, what in the hell are you doing?’ In the last 10 years or so, Bart has adopted that Mister term as a greeting.

“To me, hearing him say that to Brett, told me that not only was his mind working, but his memory was working as well. That really got me pretty emotional.”

Brett and Bart

Speaking of Starr, it appears that his family is definitely considering another stem cell treatment for Bart, perhaps as soon as a week or two, based on the story Pete Dougherty of USA Today Network-Wisconsin put out on Wednesday.

There has been big advancements in helping out people who have had cognitive issues via stem cell treatments. In a study done by Stanford University School of Medicine, it has been determined that people who were disabled by a stroke can be helped.

This was done by injecting modified, human, adult stem cells directly into the brains of chronic stroke patients. That method proved to be not only safe, but effective in restoring motor function, according to the findings of a small clinical trial.

Stem cell treatment for former NFL players like Kramer and Starr have proven to be effective.

There may not be a person in the non-medical world who knows more about the study of stem cell research than Kramer.

No. 64 told me how it all this journey first started for him.

“I was looking at starting a clinic for anti-aging along with my good buddy Art Preston, who is in the oil business,” Kramer said. “We were also joined by Dr. Don Steele, who is a Clinical Neuropsychologist. “That was initially my focus. I didn’t know a lot about this subject, so I decided that we were going to go to five or six universities and their research facilities. To talk to the PHDs and the doctors who were running the facility and see what they thought about aging and also stem cells.

“So we went to the University of Wisconsin and saw saw Dr. James Thomson in his lab. Dr. Thomson was able to take a normal cell  and induce embryonic pluripotency to the cell. Which is setting it back to an embryonic stage. That is pretty phenomenal.

“We spent four hours with him and he told me a wonderful story about how he arrived at that project. He asked me if I ever heard of the human genome project. I said I did. He asked me if I knew how long it took. I said, I wasn’t sure, but was probably eight or nine years.

“Dr. Thomson said, ‘Jerry, it took 13 years. And the cost was $3.1 billion dollars. I now have a machine my basement that can do the same thing in three-and-a-half hours.’

“James took me back and showed me some stem cells on a slide. Then he took me back into another part of the lab and showed me a cage that had little critters scurrying around in it. And James says, “Do you know what those are?’ I told him that they looked like salamanders.

“He said that’s what they were and he asked me what I knew about salamanders. I said that they make good bass bait! And he laughs and says, “What else?’ I told him I didn’t know a lot about them. He told me that a salamander can regenerate an arm, a leg or a tail.

James Thomson

Dr. James Thomson

“Then Dr. Thomson says, ‘We think the the ability of the salamander to regrow an arm, a leg or a tail, is stem cell-based. If we can figure out how the salamander does it, we think we can do the same thing with humans.’

When Jerry told me that story, it really hit home, as I have lived in Florida now for 30-plus years. Any time you go outside in Florida, you are going to see an anole, which is also in the lizard family like the salamander. In my time living in Florida, I’ve also had a few dogs.

When a dog sees an anole, he’s going to chase it and try and catch it. Many times I have seen a dog of mine step on the tail of the anole and detach the tail. Anoles are territorial. They hang around the same areas, whether it’s near your pool or by certain plants or bushes.

So I was able to spot the ones who lost a tail fairly easily. It’s amazing to see a stub grow into a tail again in a matter of weeks.

The meeting with Dr. Thomson gave Kramer a glimpse of where the stem cell science was heading.

After the visit with Dr. Thomson, Kramer, along with Preston and Steele, went to Harvard and received a full-blown tour of their research lab. They spent three or four hours with Dr. David Sinclair, who headed the lab for the study of aging at Harvard.

After the visit to Harvard, Kramer and company then went to MIT, where they met Dr. Leonard Guarente, who headed the lab for the study of aging at that school since 1982.

“MIT was sort of a golden castle on a far away hill to me,” Kramer said. “My father was a half-assed engineer and most of that was self-taught. He built his own radio when he was 14 years old. Dad thought MIT was the greatest spot in the world and he once told me that I might be able to go there some day.

“So to be at MIT and also to have lunch with Dr. Guarente was a big thrill. I kept calling him Dr. Guarente, being as respectful as I could. Finally he says, ‘Call me Lenny. As in Lenny Moore [of the Baltimore Colts]. I loved you guys. I used to watch you all the time.’

“After our visit to MIT, we went to Stanford and Cal and talked to their research people.”

After Kramer told me that, I mentioned to him that he didn’t mess around on his research tour, going to places like Wisconsin, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Cal.

“I wanted the best information I could find, Bobby,” Kramer said. “I wanted to go right to the source at the best places we could go. I mean, if I was going to get involved in that, and also get other people involved in that, I wanted to believe in it.

“That was just an incredible time and a wonderful learning experience. All of the folks were so gracious with their time as well. So all that time investigating this research and learning about it, made me believe that the stem cell research community was going to undergo an incredible change.

“I also checked out web sites at Wake Forest (Dr. Anthony Atala) and at the University of Pittsburgh (Dr. Stephen Badylak), which gave me some more outstanding information.

“Basically, I got myself comfortable regarding stem cell research. That it wasn’t BS or snake oil stuff.”

Kramer also started spreading the word about what he had learned to former teammates.

“About four years ago, a bunch of us from the Super Bowl II team were at an autograph function,” Kramer said. “Somebody asked me what I was doing and I started talking about my stem cell research. Don Horn was standing near me and was listening to everything I said.

“Don didn’t say anything, but you could tell he was listening intently. After that, Don started doing his own research and now he has a big role as a liaison for former NFL players who might be helped by stem cell therapy.”

Horn now works with Kandace Stolz, who is President of the Premier Stem Cell Institute.

Kramer is impressed with PSCI, which is located in Johnstown, Colorado.

“I talked with Kandace on the phone. She is very knowledgeable about current and future stem cell facts. I plan on going there to visit with her before too long.”

That would be yet another educational journey for Kramer, as he continues to expand his knowledge in the stem cell research field.

The 2016 Green Bay Packers: The Depth at Offensive Tackle is Much Better

Jason Spriggs

Jason Spriggs

In looking back at the 2015 Green Bay Packers, one position stood out like a sore thumb in terms of lack of depth. That would be the offensive tackle position.

The situation at offensive tackle reared it’s ugly head when the Packers played the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale two days after Christmas last season.

Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury. That meant that Don Barclay replaced Bakhtiari at left tackle and Josh Walker took over for Bulaga at right tackle.

Both played like they were swinging gates trying to stop oncoming pass rushers, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

The bottom line is that the Packers did not have a true swing tackle on the offensive line last season. Yes, Barclay had started 18 games at right tackle in 2012 and 2013, but that was before he tore his ACL in 2014.

Even before that injury, Barclay showed that he didn’t have the quick feet necessary to stop edge rushers. That is what the Packers realized when they first signed Barclay as an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia in 2012.

The Packers immediately moved Barclay inside to guard, as he was a better than average run blocker. It wasn’t until the Packers had injuries at the tackle position that Barclay moved outside to tackle, as he had played the position in college.

General manager Ted Thompson certainly addressed the shortcomings at offensive tackle in the 2016 NFL draft.

In the second round, the Packers traded up and selected offensive tackle Jason Spriggs of Indiana with pick No. 48. NFL scout Chris Landry had Spriggs ranked 32nd of his horizontal draft board, just one spot behind Taylor Decker of Ohio State.

Spriggs was a four-year starter at Indiana and he started 47 times in 48 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers.

The 6-foot-51/2, 305-pound Spriggs impressed Landry at the Senior Bowl. Landry put out this report on Spriggs after his impressive week in Mobile, Alabama:

OT Jason Spriggs of Indiana, consistently stood out as one of the most effective pass protectors at the Senior Bowl. The former tight end is big and strong, yet agile and light-footed enough to seal off the edge on opposing pass rushers.

Kyle Murphy

Kyle Murphy   Photo: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the sixth round, with the 200th selection in the draft, the Packers picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford.

The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.

Landry had Murphy ranked at No. 97 on his horizontal draft board, but the former Stanford star lasted until pick No. 200. That’s what I call excellent value. This is what Landry said about Murphy in his scouting report:

A former five-star recruit, Murphy was named to the All- Pac-12 first team in 2015. He was a third-team All American. He is a solid football player who does everything very well. He had 34 career starts at Stanford, including all 27 his junior and senior seasons. He can get off the ball quickly, has explosiveness on contact, gets movement with run blocks and gets and keeps good position in pass protection. He plays with a natural bend and can anchor. Murphy is athletic enough to pull and play in space. He just needs to get a little bigger and stronger.

In training camp so far and through the first two preseason games, neither Spriggs or Murphy have disappointed, although both have had their ups and downs.

Spriggs has played a ton a snaps in both preseason games and looked very solid in the game versus the Cleveland Browns at left tackle. Against the Oakland Raiders and defensive end Khalil Mack in the second quarter, Spriggs had some issues.

Mack is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. Perhaps only J.J. Watt is better. Spriggs allowed Mack to have four hurries and one sack. After Mack left the game, Spriggs still struggled at times, but he never stopped competing and had some nice moments as well.

Murphy didn’t play against Cleveland in the first preseason game due to a concussion issue, but he stood out with his fine play at right tackle against the Raiders.

Murphy was matched most of the second quarter matched against Bruce Irvin, the former Seahawk, who had 25 sacks in four seasons in Seattle.  While Spriggs was struggling against Mack, Murphy handled Irvin with relative ease.

Like Spriggs, Murphy received plenty of snaps as well. Both rookies are getting some nice experience this preseason. More importantly, it also looks like both of them have the capability to come in at a moment’s notice to play at a solid level if either Bakhtiari or Bulaga go out with an injury.

There is some even better news on the offensive line front. Barclay is playing very solidly at both guard and center. A lot of people were shocked that the Packers re-signed Barclay to a one-year deal when he was an unrestricted free agent. This was after giving up nine sacks in just five starts at tackle last season.

I tried to explain why the Packers did that in an article I wrote about Barclay in April. The main reason I thought Green Bay brought him back was to move him back inside to guard.

<> at Ford Field on November 28, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Don Barclay

The Packers did do just that, plus gave him several snaps at center backing up JC Tretter, as starting center Corey Linsley has been out with a hamstring injury. Barclay had been given limited reps at center earlier in his career in Green Bay, so playing center wasn’t foreign to him.

It looks like Barclay has resurrected his career this training camp, as he is moving around much better two years removed from his ACL injury.

Tretter has also been exceptional as the starting center while Linsley has been out.

If the Packers keep just nine offensive linemen this season, I believe that the nine linemen will be Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Linsley, T.J. Lang, Bulaga, Tretter, Spriggs, Murphy and Barclay. If they keep 10 linemen, Lane Taylor would probably be the next guy in.

If it comes down to one job between Barclay and Taylor, Barclay has played much better this preseason, plus can play multiple positions, while Taylor is strictly a guard.

The bottom line is that the Packers have the offensive weapons to be really special this year in terms of being productive and putting up points.

But as Landry has reminded me a number of times, the offensive line has to it’s job.

Back in July, Landry had this take on the offensive line, when I asked him how productive Aaron Rodgers will be in 2016.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

So far, there has been some definite headway with the offensive line this preseason. The depth on the line is definitely a work in progress, but the Packers have to be thrilled with the overall play of  Spriggs, Murphy, Barclay and Tretter. That all adds up to holding down the fort effectively if injuries do occur with the starters.

How Joe Montana Came Very Close to Becoming a Green Bay Packer

Joe Montana

I had another opportunity to talk with Zeke Bratkowski, who played backup quarterback behind Bart Starr when both played with the Green Bay Packers. Bratkowski was considered the best backup in the NFL at the time.

I talked about that dynamic in a couple of stories recently. Bratkowski brought the Packers back from a 10-0 deficit in the 1965 NFL Western Conference Championship Game after Starr was injured on the first play from scrimmage.

The Packers ended up winning 13-10 in overtime, as Bratkowski first led a game-tying drive late in the game and then the winning drive in overtime.

Bratkowski and Starr spent a lot of time together watching film and also in the quarterback meetings with head coach Vince Lombardi.

After their playing days were over, Bratkowski was an assistant coach under Starr in Green Bay for seven years.

When I read Starr’s autobiography called My Life in Football, something really caught my eye. In one of the chapters, Starr admitted he made a big error when he didn’t select quarterback Joe Montana of Notre Dame in the third round of the 1979 draft, when he was head coach and general manager of the Packers.

Starr said, “There is no question that I made a terrible mistake in passing on Joe Montana in 1979. He could play, and I knew it, and I blew it.”

When I talked to Bratkowski, I asked him if he had personally scouted Montana for Starr and if he endorsed the selection of the former Fighting Irish star to the Packers.

“Yes,” Bratkowski said. “They sent me out there because we had not looked at him at first because he eventually got drafted in the third round. Usually we were looking at the top quarterbacks in the first round.

“Bart told me to fly out there and work him out. We filmed him. Bart wanted me to check out his arm for throwing long passes. When you really check out deep pass plays like a go-route or a fly-route, the best catching area is about 43 yards downfield.

“We didn’t have anyone to catch passes from Joe except me. The film guy was doing his job and Joe was throwing the ball to me. Every pass was a perfect spiral, even on the deep throws. In my report, I said Joe was very accurate, that he has a great ball and he’s a great person.

Zeke and Bart

“Joe didn’t know where he was going to end up. And there he was still available in the third round. Red Cochran, who was the area scout in that area, absolutely loved Joe. Back then, when we were thinking of taking a quarterback, the quarterbacks coach would come in the draft room and answer questions. Bart told me to go back and look at that film that we took of Joe.

“I watched the film and then came back and I still had the same feeling about Joe and told them that. I said that we had to give a lot of thought about taking him. When we took the nose tackle [Charles Johnson] instead, Red Cochran almost committed suicide.”

Just imagine if the Packers had indeed selected Montana. Yes, the Packers still had Lynn Dickey, but he was still rehabbing from a horrific broken leg which caused him to miss over two full seasons.

Both Montana and Dickey were very accurate, but Montana had the big edge in mobility. And as we know now, Montana turned out to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, as he led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl wins and was the game MVP in three of those games.

Would Montana have had the same success with the Packers? That’s very hard to say. The 49ers and the Packers had about the same type of team in 1979. Both were still in the rebuilding stage.

Montana had a excellent offensive mind to learn from in San Francisco with Bill Walsh, but he also would have learned a lot from both Starr and Bratkowski in Green Bay.

So who knows what would have happened. One thing is for sure. The selection of Montana would have certainly changed some of the history of the Packers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Starr might have been retained as head coach and could have attained the glory he had as a player with Montana leading his club.

Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre may never have been part of the organization of the Packers.

But all of this speculation became a moot point when Starr decided to select nose tackle Charles Johnson of Maryland instead of Montana of Notre Dame.

Johnson played in just 45 games with the Packers and his career in Green Bay was over after the 1983 season, just like it was with Starr, who fired after an 8-8 campaign that year.

Bottom line, this is a classic example of how the wrong decision in the NFL draft will have terrible implications for that particular franchise for the foreseeable future, as the Pack was 19 games under .500 in the 1980s and only had one playoff appearance.

On the other hand, things were 180 degrees different for the 49ers once they selected Montana, as they won four Super Bowls in that same decade.

Jerry Kramer Talks About the Book ‘Instant Replay’

instant replay

I do it every summer around training camp. I get out the book Instant Replay and read it. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. It’s been a ritual for me. Why? The book is that good.

In 1967, when Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was 31 years old, he kept a diary of the season. Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that classic contest.

From training camp, through the Ice Bowl victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of the team’s legendary leader, head coach Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

Vincen And Jerry III

In one of my many conversations with Kramer, he gave me his perspective about the book and how it came to be. Kramer told me how he first got to know Schaap, who co-wrote the book with him:

“Dick was doing a story on [Paul] Hornung, and he walked by the room I shared with Jimmy Taylor. Our door was open and I was reading some poetry to Jimmy. Dick walked by the door and then stopped. Then he walked back and looked in to see if he had really seen that.

“About five or six years later, Dick called about doing the book. Apparently, the episode about me reading the poetry stuck in his mind.”

The first conversation between Schaap and Kramer about doing this undertaking was interesting:

“Dick asked me if I wanted to write a book. I said, ‘What the hell do I know about writing a book?’ He says, ‘Well, you talk into a tape recorder and record your observations, activities, impressions, thoughts and your life. Then you send it to me and I’ll transcribe it and I’ll organize it into a book.’

“I had one more question for him. And I said, ‘Who gets final say?’ And Dick said, ‘You do.’ And I said, ‘Let’s talk.’ We went to New York and talked to the publisher. But I was still new to all this. I asked Dick how may books would we need to sell to do well. Dick said, ‘If we sell between 15,000 and 20,000 books, we did good.’ We ended up selling over 400,000 hard-cover books.”

Kramer had to contemplate as to what approach he would use to write the book:

“I was thinking about being an ‘author’ and how flowery my language should be. And that I would have to use some big words. I was worried about how I would be perceived. Finally, I said that it is what it is and I am who I am. You aren’t going to change that.

“So I decided to just write it from the perspective of being as honest as I could be and straight forward. Tell it like it is. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.”

Kramer got a critique from one of his teammates, Forrest Gregg, the following training camp after the book was published in August 1968.

Gregg and his roommate, Gale Gillingham, were visiting Kramer in his room. They began talking about the book, when Gregg offered up an observation as retold by Kramer.

“That damn book. Everywhere I go, people want to know about that book”, Gregg said. “I’m getting sick and tired of that damn book. But I’ll tell you one thing Jerry, you were dead-honest.”

Kramer said that was probably the nicest compliment he ever had about the book. Coming from someone like Gregg made it extra special. Gregg was right there with Kramer during the legendary ’67 season.

The book came at a perfect time. Sort of like a perfect storm, according to Kramer:

“It was very fortunate timing.”

Jerry on a knee

It was also fortunate timing that Kramer helped to create. Jerry was named All-Pro that season at right guard along with getting named to the Pro Bowl.

Kramer and his teammates overcame a lot during that season. Hornung and Taylor were gone. There were multiple injuries on the team. Quarterback Bart Starr missed a couple of games due to injuries. Both starting running backs, Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski, were lost for the season with injuries in the eighth week of the season.

Despite all of that adversity, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967 with players like Donny Anderson, Travis Williams, Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein filling the void.

The team also lost a couple of heartbreaking games (including one to the Los Angeles Rams) in the last minute during the course of the season.

A couple of weeks after that loss to the Rams, Green Bay whipped Los Angeles 28-7 at Milwaukee County Stadium in the Western Conference Championship Game.

The week after that came the “Ice Bowl” at Lambeau Field. The Packers were down 17-14 to the Cowboys with just 4:50 remaining in the game. It was extremely cold, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero. The offense of the Packers had to trudge 68 yards across a truly frozen tundra to win the game.

It came down to this: just 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with Lombardi, Starr decided to keep the ball because of the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line.

Starr followed Kramer’s block on Jethro Pugh, and he found a hole behind No. 64 to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown.

Jerry's block on Jethro

Kramer talked about that block with me in one of our discussions:

“Jethro was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

“On the play, Pugh is up high, like I expected, and I got off the ball really well. I got a great start, and Jethro was up where I expected him to be. I kept my head up and my eyes open and I put my face in his chest, and at that point it’s over. I had control of Jethro, and he’s up in the air and he’s just dead. As soon as he comes up, and I get into him, I had the power of position on him.

“There was no way in hell he was going to do anything but slide. Now Kenny [Bowman] was there, and he was part of it [the block], there is no question about that, but I have always felt that the thing was over as soon as I got into Jethro.”

That block propelled the Packers into Super Bowl II, where the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14. A couple weeks later, Lombardi resigned as head coach and stayed on with the Packers as a general manager only for the 1968 season.

The Packers have won 13 NFL titles. No team has won more. All of those championship teams were special. But the 1967 championship team will always be my favorite.

It was the last Green Bay team that Vince Lombardi coached, and his last squad overcame all sorts of adversity to win the team’s third NFL title in a row. No team in the modern NFL has ever accomplished that incredible feat.

The ’67 team also won Green Bay’s fifth NFL championship in seven years.

Besides all of that, Jerry Kramer opened a door for all of us to see how that epic 1967 season unfolded with his co-authoring of Instant Replay.

The book is truly a masterpiece, just like the 1967 season was for the Packers.

A Scout’s Take on Linebacker Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers

Blake Martinez

Photo: Mark Hoffman

Although it’s still fairly early in training camp for the Green Bay Packers, no rookie has exhibited himself better than inside linebacker Blake Martinez.

As it stands right now, Martinez has shown the defensive coaching staff enough to be on the field at all times. So when the Packers play their base defense, or are in their nickel or dime looks, expect to see No. 50 on the field.

The nickel and dime looks constitute about 75% of the defenses that the Packers play in a given game.

Not bad for a compensatory pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, which was announced by former Packers great Jerry Kramer.

The 6’2″, 237-pound Martinez had been a two-year starter for the Stanford Cardinal. In those two years, Martinez had 243 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, 12 passes defended and had five picks.

In 2014, Martinez was named honorable mention in the Pac-12 at linebacker, while in 2015 was named first-team All-Pac-12.

Martinez ran a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash as the NFL Scouting Combine, but he improved that mark to 4.67 at his pro day.

The former Cardinal star has impressed the Packers since his arrival in Green Bay.

Just ask head coach Mike McCarthy.

“He looks very comfortable,” McCarthy said back in the middle of June. “I think he’s done a really nice job transitioning from the base defense to the sub defense, his command, the echoing of the calls. He’s very bright. Quick. And he definitely is a very instinctive player. He’s off to a very good start.”

Once training camp started in late July, Martinez continued to impress, as he practiced with the starters in the base, nickel and dime.

Martinez showed that he could play the dime scheme that the Packers utilize at Stanford, and that has continued in training camp thus far.

“Right now base and nickel, mainly, and then I’ve been running with the 1s in the dime package and stuff like that,” Martinez said. “I’ve been working on it and doing what they need me to do, as long as I can get the job done.”

And No. 50 is getting the job done, at least to the satisfaction of the coaching staff.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers talked about how studious Martinez is when he talked with the media on Wednesday.

“He’s [Martinez] an attention to detail guy,” Capers said. “If he doesn’t know it, he’s going to ask. There’s going to be errors, because this is the first time he has seen a lot of these things. He normally doesn’t make the same error twice.”

I had an opportunity last week to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show about Martinez.

I told Landry that Martinez was getting the starter’s reps in all the defensive schemes, including the dime.

“Well, Blake is very instinctive,” Landry said. “He plays the run well and he understands his landmarks in coverage. He makes good checks, which is one of the reasons why they [the Packers] liked him. He can be a three-down guy.”

The Packers won’t know for sure how good Martinez can be until they actually see him play on the field in game situations. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame game versus the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night was cancelled due to poor field conditions.

But on Friday night, the Packers will get a chance to see Martinez and a lot of the younger players when they take on the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

If Martinez continues to play like he has at OTAs and in training camp, he looks to be a definite starter at one of the inside linebacker positions and to be on the field with the defense at all times.

Second-year  linebacker Jake Ryan has been playing next to Martinez  on the inside in the OTAs and in training camp, but now will be pushed by the return of Sam Barrington, who just came off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list on Tuesday night.

Barrington started seven games in 2014 at inside linebacker for the Packers and started in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears in 2015, before suffering an ankle injury which put him out for the entire season.

Ryan started five games at inside linebacker as a rookie in 2015 and played in 14 games overall.

So while the battle to become one of the starters at inside linebacker between Ryan and Barrington looks to be very interesting, Martinez has so far proven that he can be trusted to be a three-down player at the other inside linebacker position.

Martinez gets to show that the proof is in the pudding, starting on Friday night against the Browns in Green Bay.